Marble bust of Trajan

Roman, made in Italy about AD 108-117

In the style of a Hellenistic ruler

The bust, one of many issued to commemorate the emperor Trajan's Decennalia (tenth anniversary of his accession - he reigned AD 98-117), shows him in the style of a Hellenistic ruler, with his upper body bared and his head slightly turned. Trajan was born at Italica near Seville in modern Spain, and was the first non-Italian emperor, reflecting the political and economic shifts taking place within the Roman empire.

Under Trajan the empire reached its greatest extent, with the conquests of Mesopotamia (modern Iraq), and Dacia (modern Romania). The latter was celebrated on Trajan's Column in Rome, which carries the history of the two Dacian wars in a 200 metre long frieze spiralling up the shaft. The column was only one element of an immense complex of forum, basilica (law-court), libraries, shops, and housing built with the proceeds of his conquests. Trajan, however, was not only a very capable commander, but was also renowned for his fairness, good government and wisdom. Elements of these are preserved in his correspondence with the younger Pliny, one of his ablest provincial governors, notably on the subject of early Christian communities. This reputation endured for centuries, and it is this perceived piety which earned Trajan, rather than Augustus, Hadrian or Constantine, a place in the Paradiso of Dante Alighieri (1265-1321).

Find in the collection online

Marble bust of Trajan

Marble bust of Trajan, made in Italy about AD 108-117

  • Gold aureus of Trajan showing the Column

    Gold aureus of Trajan showing the Column


More information


S. Walker, Greek and Roman portraits (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)


Height: 68.500 cm

Museum number

GR 1874.7-12.11 (Sculpture 1893)


Bequeathed by Charles Townley


Find in the collection online

Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore